The highly coordinated process of protein folding starts co-translationally, as the developing polypeptide leaves the ribosome. The folding process of amino acids is determined by their primary sequence, and local interactions result in the formation of secondary structures like beta sheets and alpha helices. The exact arrangement of side chains and interactions with the solvent environment cause these secondary structures to fold into the protein's distinctive three-dimensional shape, or tertiary structure.

Protein folding

Chaperone proteins play a crucial role in protein folding by assisting in the correct folding of newly synthesized proteins and preventing misfolding and aggregation. Heat shock proteins (Hsps) are a family of chaperones that are upregulated in response to cellular stress and help protect cells from protein misfolding.

Molecular Chaperones

Misfolded proteins can accumulate as a result of genetic mutations, environmental influences, or age-related changes that cause protein misfolding. Misfolded proteins have the ability to combine and form insoluble complexes, which can cause cellular dysfunction and result in disorders including prion diseases, Alzheimer's disease, and Parkinson's disease.

Cellular pathways of protein degradation remove misfolded proteins

Studying protein folding is challenging due to the complexity of the process and the vast number of possible conformations a protein can adopt. Advanced experimental techniques such as X-ray crystallography, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, and cryo-electron microscopy, combined with computational modeling, are used to elucidate the folding pathways of proteins and understand the principles governing protein folding and misfolding. 

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